In the spring of 2017, one of our milk cows (Greta) gave birth to a calf (Gilbert). Assistant Farm Manager Hilary Crowell was on hand to record the birth, while Farm Manager Megan Phillips leaned in to give the calf a few helpful tugs:
The first of our spring lambs began to arrive last night, just in time to welcome our guests for the April 7th Open House. To add to the fun this year, we have installed a live “Lamb Cam” to let all our Chewonki friends check in on the baby lambs from home.
We had a remarkable lunch yesterday, thanks to the Farm & Kitchen staff at Chewonki. “Beet Butter” a delicious rubine-red blend of pureed beets and fresh butter, was served up with warm bread and of course, more beets!
Beets, with their intense color and taste have always lingered on the edge of controversy:
“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious….
A stretch of clear winter weather has allowed us to bring down several large oak trees as part of Chewonki’s ongoing forest management plan, with the the newly thinned areas opening the way for more light on the farm gardens. The farmers are happy. “This will make a tremendous difference in our production,” says Assistant Farm Manager Hilary Crowell, already looking forward to what will flourish in the suddenly sunnier areas.
The project is important for other reasons as well. Forester Harold Burnett, who began managing Chewonki’s forests when he ran the farm in the mid 1980s and has been doing it ever since, says the cutting gives work to local loggers and will contribute to the start-up of a wood pellet manufacturing plant in nearby Boothbay. “Ron Dostie, a talented logger, is doing the work,” says Harold, “and Erik Carlson, another excellent logger who has worked with Chewonki before, is finalizing a wood-processing facility, C & L Forestry Wood Pellets, that we are helping to launch by selling him a load of softwood from Chewonki trees.”
“This is an interesting story around local forestry,” agrees Farm Manager Megan Phillips. “Erik Carlson opened up his wood pellet plant as a means of having more steady work opportunities in the shoulder seasons or when unpredictable weather conditions do not allow for logging, which is happening more and more often because of climate change. The plant is manufacturing a sustainable heat source from local product, and Chewonki will be connected to this project, which is supporting local jobs, in the nascent stages by providing some of the softwood Erik needs.”
About 25 percent of our harvest is hardwood. The best of that will become furniture and flooring. Some will be sold as firewood. The rest will go to a pulp mill in Jay, Maine, for making paper. The softwood heading to C & L Forestry will mostly become pellets for heating; some of it will turn into grilling chips or animal bedding.
It can be hard to see trees come down, but the cutting going on this winter is a great example of waste-not/want-not and the interlocking benefits that careful use of natural resources brings on a community scale.
Maine Coast Semester students spent the weekend of February 25-26 out in the snow and the sunshine at Chewonki, learning about sustainable forestry practices.
Six teams rotated through three activities:
The students enjoyed several traditional north-woods competitive events including the pulp toss (giving the heave-ho to a large log); the quarter split (axe-splitting a log, marked with a dot on top, into even quarters, each showing a bit of the dot); crosscutting (using a two-person, crosscut saw to cut a log into three “cookies”); and the log roll (using peaveys, one at each end, to roll a log between two cones three times).
The grand finale was a ferociously fought round of fire-build, a race to see which team could build a fire and boil a can of soapy water over it first. Competitors start with a hatchet, some dry cedar, and three matches–and if you think this is easy, you’ve probably never tried it. Simon Morin (Camden, Maine) was on a team he says was “not good at most things” in the woodsmen’s competition but happened to be “really good at fire-build.” His team emerged victorious.
Farm Manager Megan Phillips says the day was a ton of fun but also more than that: it was an opportunity to teach students about practices that are “hugely traditional and also progressive.“
Sustainable forestry often involves old ways of doing things (like using horse power) that are now regarded as forward-thinking strategies for responsible management of the resource. Megan also notes that many Maine loggers of the 1800s were young men the same age as the semester students and no doubt expressed a similar playful but passionate attitude toward the woodsmen’s competitions. What goes around comes around, in forestry as in other aspects of life.
P.S. An unexpected highlight of the woodmen’s competition was that on the spot, to honor the event and its competitors, Megan and English teacher Eli Peirce composed new lyrics to the Beatles classic “Blackbird” as follows:
Woodsmen sawing in the light of day
Take that crosscut saw and saw away
Pull it through
Perfect sawing form will keep those other teams at bay
Oak bough landing on the blue spray paint
Toss that pulp, no time to wait
Split that wood
We once thought you were slackers, but now we know you ain’t
Into the wood that was once alive
Cherilyn Oscar Lydia squared
Molly Michael Jesse, don’t be scared
You have won
Doesn’t even matter that your fire never flared